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Strengthening and Shaping for the Lazy

I like easy strengthening exercises.  I’m lazy and a procrastinator who will build up what she needs to do to epic proportions in her mind, psyching herself out of doing any work at all.

I have not done yoga or pilates, or any sort of strengthening exercises for months.  (I can blame it on the Holidays, but, well, ok I’ll blame it on the holidays.)  Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been back working on the weight machines at the gym to strengthen without the pressure of not falling over during yoga or Pilates.  I just started to see and feel results this past week so I figured I’d try my hand at some floor moves.  Anyone who says yoga and Pilates are easier than pumping iron are DEAD WRONG.  Ok, maybe it’s relative to your own body weight vs. weights on the machine.  I’ve got some lbs. on me, so lifting 20 pound weights to work my shoulders on a machine is kids play opposed to holding my body weight up in some Pilates moves.  Personally, I prefer floor work over the weight machines since machines isolate specific muscles and yoga/Pilates work all the stabilizing muscles as well as main muscles.  I like a full body workout!

I also strongly procrastinate working on my core.  I know it’s necessary to work your middle to feel your strongest, and once my middle has gained strength I think “why did I ever stop doing this!?”  So, I attempted some new and seemingly easy core work to keep my waistline slim (I like to accentuate the hourglass) and strengthen at the same time.  I threw in some glute work and yoga as well.  These exercises took me about 30 minutes, but you can easily shorten it by picking and choosing your own routine.  Thank you Pinterest!

1. I started with about 15 minutes of Yoga to “warm up”.  I put that in quotes because Yoga is more than a warm up, it’s a great strengthening medium in addition to Pilates.

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2.  Laying your back seems easy right?  I tried these Alternating Single-Leg Glute Bridges to work both the glutes and Hamstrings before heavily working on my core.  Hot damn, they were my least favorite exercise of this series so I’m glad I got them out of the way first.  And let me tell you, I have strong glutes.  I’d probably save this for Intermediate workouts.

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3. My planks, which engage the core muscles, are not very strong so a moving plank exercise seemed up my alley to build up stamina.  I rather enjoyed the Wide Leg Plank as it was challenging but not impossible. I was able to do 3 sets of 10, definitely feeling the burn by the end.  For more waist slimming exercises, click on the image.

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4. I love working my obliques…especially in slight and easy exercises. The Side Bridge and Oblique V-Up are now two of my new favorite exercises because at the time I felt like I was doing nothing but today my sides are SORE. I did 3 sets of 10 for each.  That’s my kind of exercise!

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Oblique V-Up

Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Fold your arms across your chest. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you raise your top elbow toward your hip. The range of motion is short, but you should feel an intense contraction in your obliques.

10 repetitions each side

core45. I of course ended with the Corpse Pose because THAT is the lazy lady’s favorite Yoga move. I end all of my routines in this relaxing and meditative pose. Sometimes I fall asleep…

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Today is the day after this workout, and I feel just the right amount of soreness in my core muscles.  That is encouraging and makes me want to continue with new exercises on a regular basis to keep the core strong without obsessing.  Variety is key!  I’m a victim of routine and I need to force myself out of my comfort zone to keep myself interested in body maintenance as well as work some new muscles.

If you’d like to try yoga at home with some help from a professional, check out this great series of Kris Fondran’s ShapeShifter Yoga videos!  Kris Fondran has been teaching and practicing yoga for more than 12 years. Her yoga experience and her Master’s degree in Exercise Science make her one of the top experts on yoga and fitness today. Click through the image below to read more about it!

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Belly Flabulous!

I’ve been told I have a small waist. The truth is sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I have a soft flabby belly that I struggle between accepting and shedding, and I am going to show it to you.

I’m fortunate that my proportions are traditionally feminine, but since hitting 30 years old, losing belly weight is extremely difficult. I know this is especially tough for most mothers to lose after childbirth, though I personally not gone through the pregnancy weight struggles. The only way I can get my belly extremely flat (from past experience) is from cutting calories to the extreme, like after my tonsillectomy surgery and when I lost 100lbs. years ago. I’m not going down that route again.

Right now, I am happy focusing on my core, even though I’ve yet to hit my weight goal. I’ve turned a corner, and I’d rather be larger and muscular/healthy than svelte and bony and starving. My original plan was to tone and strengthen after I hit my weight goal, but I made the choice to do it at the halfway mark. I can feel my abdominal muscles beneath my cute fleshy belly, and that make me happier than when I could feel my ribs. I never thought that would happen. Friends and Co-Workers still think I’m losing weight, and seem surprised when I tell them I’ve gained weight until I explain I’ve been working on strength and toning exercises. I also find that my cardio seems easier with a strong core. I know I will soon see even more results in my midsection as I stick with Pilates, Yoga, and other core strengthening exercises. Will I have a belly as flat as when I wasn’t eating much? Maybe not. Will I be strong and healthy and still curvy? I hope so!

I am rather tall (5’9″) with a long torso that can carry weight well, which can be dangerous for health reasons. Extra weight around the midsection is linked to a handful of illnesses (heart disease, diabetes) and it’s somewhat scary as you get older. It’s also frustrating because as you increase in age your metabolism decreases, and it may become more difficult to lower your waist circumference or maintain it within a healthy range without paying closer attention to calorie intake or increasing exercise. Even though I do have that flabby flab on my belly, I am happy that I now fall within a healthy waist circumference after losing 40 pounds.

letting it all hang out

letting it all hang out

engaging the core

engaging the core

Here is how I give the illusion of having a smaller waist. Throughout the day, I try to make sure to “engage” my core and focus on a proper posture when standing, sitting, and walking. There is a difference that can be seen in these photos of myself, taken on the same day. It could be defined as “sucking it in” which is partly true, but what I’m doing is tightening my core muscles (abdominal and pelvic area, back, and glutes.) You can even see a slight difference in the curvature of my back/spine. Also, by simply tilting your pelvis back (to help straighten your spine) you not only take pressure off your lower spine’s curvature but you bring your stomach inward.

I feel like I could be in one of those “juice your belly fat away” commercials, but alas it’s really just the result of making the effort to keep my core active. Once you train yourself to pay attention to these little details, your body will make it part of your daily ergonomic routine. I’ve been complimented on my posture many times (chest out, shoulders back!) and I don’t even think about it anymore. It seems engaging my core is soon to follow!

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Is Your Kitchen Is Full Of “Fat Storing” Ingredients…read more about about it!

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Coring is not so boring.

I am the kind of person who likes to see results right away, otherwise I feel like that 1 whole hour of hard work is not paying off.  I blame it on being a Generation X’er.  I’ve tried to dismiss that mindset throughout my wellness journey and more importantly over these past 2 weeks.  About a month ago I hit a wall.  To change this feeling of not moving forward, I’ve made it a point to focus on a new regiment, eat when I’m hungry, snack on healthy stuff when i’m not so hungry, and not beat myself up if the scale fluctuates.  I also recently joined an affordable 24 hour privately owned gym, Urge Fitness, 3 blocks from my house with state of the art equipment and unlimited classes so there is NO EXCUSE not to work out!

I’ve been focusing on my core/abs in addition to lifting weights regularly again.  Historically, I’m the worst at regularly working my core area even though it’s the most important area to focus on and strengthen.  I usually bitch and moan and complain to anyone trying to help me, saying that it’s too difficult, it hurts my back, and I don’t want to “bulk up” my middle.  I realized today that those were pretty lame excuses to not work hard and in fact, my back has never felt better.  This is a pretty sad realization since I’ve always known that a strong core helps alleviate back pain and help with posture.  I was just too lazy and too impatient to put in the time.  In addition, over these past weeks my abs and other core muscles have never felt stronger which is surprisingly a more rewarding feeling than slimming down my mid section. Who knew!??  

I’ve focused on very basic core/ab exercises (crunches, side reach heel touches, lower abdominal leg lifts, kettle bell swings) in preparation for the hard “core” techniques of today (bridges, planks, twists, thrusts!).  I only recently started doing kettle bell swings (pictured below) which have become my new obsession.  I feel they have made a HUGE difference in my overall strength and I use a very low weight kettle bell.  Just look at all the muscles one single exercise can help strengthen!

kettlebellswing1MuscleAnatomyKettleBellSwing

If you google “Core Exercises” a slew of results pop up.   I’m still not at the point where I can hold a plank or bridge for 30 seconds, but I have finally attempted to at least try.  That is a HUGE deal for me!  After laying the ground work with beginner exercises, I finally feel well prepared to start trying more intense core techniques.  Core exercises are very intimidating to a larger woman like myself who has a lot more weight to hold up than the average sized human.   I’ve set a goal for myself to be able to hold a plank (without and then with arm raise) or lateral bridge for more than 2.3 seconds over the next couple of weeks.  Not so surprisingly, I can rock the Glute Bridge like no other.  I will then add different intense core exercises over the course of the next couple of months.

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For me, 2 weeks seems to be the point of clarity.  When I stick to a routine for at least that amount of time, I can start to see and/or feel small results that make me feel like the sweat, pain, and frustration over the past weeks wasn’t for naught.  In addition to my lower back pain being practically nonexistent due to my core work and religious stretching routine, I’ve felt my muscles responding to the weight training.  I feel stronger, I feel definition, and I feel that the weight I’ve gained is healthy and not worth getting depressed about when the scale numbers creep upward.

If you have lower back pain and it’s not due to a bulging disc or any other medical condition (as always check with your health care physician) take a gander at these Princeton University Athletic Medicine exercises and stretches.  I plan to try some new techniques and the page categorize them ranging from easy/medium/difficult.  I also came across core exercises geared specifically towards runners and thought it could be of use to some of my friends and followers.

All this being said, I do not want a 6-pack.  I do not want to look like a body builder.  I just want to feel strong and healthy and fill out a nice pair of jeans.

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